150th Recordings Exclusive: Tu es Petrus by Tom Bennett

James Macmillan composed a staggeringly dramatic Tu es Petrus for the Holy Father’s visit to the UK.

Tom Bennett, a young Oxford choral scholar and composer, destined for greatness, composed a mesmeric, awe-inspiring unaccompanied four part  Tu es Petrus especially for our 150th Celebration Mass.

Click on the link below:-


This was recorded live at the Offertory hence the clink of coins dropping into baskets noticeable at the beginning.

150th Solemn High Mass – in pictures

I am so thrilled with the photos of the 150th Celebration Mass taken by our photographer Amelia Shepherd.

Meli captures perfectly that sense of drama and greatness, of awe and majesty  that should unfold as you witness the extraordinary events of the celebration of the Mass.

The expectation …

The Action….

The intimacy..

And the moment….

For one night, our little parish felt like a cathedral

Thanks again to Meli for these wonderful pictures. There are over 200 images. I would suggest getting a large coffee, putting your feet up and watching them on the slideshow.

Incidentally, Meli specialises in photo documentary and is currently working on a project on female fighters. Have a look at her website.

Back to the Mass. This is my favourite photo. It captures perfectly everything that Monday night was all about. Behind all the pomp and ceremony, the excitement, the loud soaring music,  was that intimate moment with Christ:

Audio and video to follow.

Ash Wednesday Propers in English

Lent is a great opportunity for church musicians to re-evaluate what they are doing with the music in the liturgy. In our parish at the moment we have very little rehearsal time before the weekly 10.30am Mass, partly due to the implementation of a 9 o’clock Latin Mass. Evening rehearsals are difficult to maintain on a weekly basis and as a result, two or three of us end up singing the Introit , the Gradual and some of the motets at the exclusion of the rest of the choir.

I have decided that in Lent l would like all of the choir singing all of the propers and l want to attempt to get the congregation more involved with the singing of the texts of the Mass rather than the same old collection of irrelevant hymns.  This means, simpler melodies, more English text, and more music on the congregational handouts. Thankfully we have a new printer which might aid the latter point at least.

I recently heard that a parish near us in Sussex has had success getting the congregation to sing the Simple English Introits by Adam Bartlett. I am not sure if this would be successful in our parish but there is no harm in trying.  We have been using the Offertory and the Communion psalm tone settings by Tom Haggar from Seaford. These are fantastic settings particularly if you have very limited rehearsal time. ( l will upload all the files for Lent in a separate post.)

One new Lenten initiative l am really excited about it is the children are learning to sing the Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII in their children’s liturgy session. Jane who is teaching them has two children of her own and her son, who is six has already easily grasped the transition from singing in English to the Latin text. From this Sunday we will be singing Mass XVII Kyrie and Sanctus and Mass XVIII Agnus Dei.

Tomorrow for Ash wednesday, we are going to sing all the propers in English, along with Mass XVIII the Ordinary for weekdays in Lent (and Advent.) There will be NO hymns! There are several great resources available online to aid the singing of English propers:

  • Simple English Propers  Adam Bartlett : Introit, Offertory and Communion. There are practice videos for all the propers.

The other important musical resource to consider this Lent is silence. and it has the added advantage that it comes in any language. I think this Lent, especially when there is limited rehearsal time, we need more silence in our liturgy. Prayer, after all, is never going to be aided by dreadful singing.

In silentia procedit pius animus , ‘in silence the devout soul makes progress.’ Thomas a Kempis from The Imitation of Christ

The Gregorian Chant Network at the London Oratory

Yesterday the Gregorian Chant Network, which encompasses virtually the entire neume singing world from the Orkneys down to Brighton, met at the London Oratory for their Biennial meetup.

This time l am going to leave it to Leutgeb at Bara Brith to summarise the day and l’ll just put up some pictures.

James Macmillan and Joseph Shaw

James Macmillan

Fr Guy Nichols

Solemn High Vespers


It was amazing what a difference two years can make. At the first meeting, there were only two women and the overall atmosphere felt determinedly restrained. This time, it was fun, lively, a few more women and lots of friends to catch up with and to make. It was great to meet Ben from Orkney Chant and Ian from Faversham who has kindly sent me music on occasions and to swop good and bad stories about running choirs and teaching chant.  Many thanks to Joseph Shaw for organising such a fantastic day.

Singing with the Sisters

It is an unequivocal delight visiting St Cecilia’s Convent on the Isle of Wight and experiencing the heavenly sound of this buoyant community singing at Mass or the Divine Office. It is another joy entirely to be able to sing with the sisters.

We, that is my schola, Schola Scholastica have been back on ” the island” these past two days once again being tutored by the choir director Sister Bernadette. Today after a particularly insightful session on Latin accents – yes l can now tell my arsis from my thesis – Sister and Candy, our group leader, decided it would be fun if we had a jam session/concert with the sisters. So this afternoon after lunch, virtually all the community, including Mother Abbess joined us in the parlour for some singing and general merriment. We started with a combined Abbey/Schola choir version of Greig’s Ave Maris Stella, each of the parts covered on both sides of the grill. There is something unspeakably moving about standing side by side of the grill with a novice, someone who admittedly l am already awe struck with because she has only recently given her life to God, joined together for that moment singing the same words and the same notes.

Following on from the polyphony, Martina, our fabulous soprano, who trained at the Royal Academy, sang Gounod’s Ave Maria accompanied by Sister Elizabeth on the piano who only
last month took her solemn profession, as . Leutgeb treated everyone to some invigorating Bach on the Viola and then it was over to the sisters band …! They are called the Pax Cordis Jesu band, after the name of the monastery, they play Irish reels, and they are fantastic. Recorder, piano, flute, violin and the Bodhran.

From the secular back into the sacred, we joined forces with some of the sisters for a rendition of Franck’s Panis Angelicus, and then the entire community came together with us to sing the hymn to Saint Scholastica which not surprisingly they knew a lot better than we did. We all finished with the Ave Regina Caelorum, And all of that in half an hour. And so we had to say goodbye to the community until after Easter -they are allowed no personal contact outside the convent during Lent.

I have said it before but the community at St Cecila’s are extraordinary. It is not surprising that whilst vocations to the religious life are dramatically dwindling in most monastic houses, St Cecilia’s is full of life, energy and most importantly prayer.

Lent 2012? – There’s an app for that…

Lent is most definitely not the season for giving things up, it is the time to start something new. This Lent, how about being only one click away from saying the Divine Office, reading the Bible, learning to sing Lenten chant, saying the Rosary, or even just learning a new prayer?  Surely it can’t be easier?

Here is my list of top Apps for Lent:-

LAUDATE –  Available for Android, Iphone and Ipad.  FREE

This App is for the entire year but why not start using it this Lent. It bills itself as “The most comprehensive Catholic App.”  It is available in English, Español, Português, Italiano, Bahasa and Polski. It features daily Mass Readings from the American Lectionary, the Liturgy of Hours from Universalis, the New American Bible, Rosary (very cool bead-shaped buttons that you tap on the side once you have said each prayer), Chaplet of Divine Mercy , Stations of the Cross, various prayers and prayers in Latin with English translation – the Pange Lingua and Ubi Caritas are on the list but missing the Ave Regina Caelorum. There is a podcast for Rosary and Stations. Daily Meditations. Podcasts of Daily Readings and meditations. The Douay-Rheims Bible is available for offline reading.

MAGNIFICAT Lenten Companion –  2012  – Optimised for the IPAD.  FREE from the App store on the ipad.

“Designed to help you live all the graces of Lent.”    Starting from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, this App gives you daily prayers for the morning, evening and night, Mass readings (American Lectionary) and  Lenten meditations.   There are sound files for the Audi Benigne Conditor, Vexilla Regis Prodeunt, Stabat Mater, some music files for Easter and even a meditation for the Stations of the Cross. Really good layout.

IBreviary – I have reviewed this before but its brilliant and somewhere l remember reading that it was the first Vatican-approved App.

LENT LITE –  Free on the IPAD.  Meditations and Reading for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas. With the free version you get the readings on alternate days. If you want the full version with readings everyday it will cost you a couple of quid.

WAY OF THE CROSS – FREE on IPAD.  Very basic. Takes you through a colour plate of each of the stations with a heavy accented narrator reading the stations and the prayers. What can I say? Good intentions…

There are more Stations apps available for Iphone. istations, Via Crucis

Apps listed that I have not tested:-

Not by bread alone  – Daily reflections for Lent 2012. “In just minutes a day, be nourished by brief but deeply insightful meditations on repentance and redemption, sacrifice and salvation, resurrection and new life. With Scripture as the foundation for each day’s brief entry, readers will find the guidance they need to become closer to God’s word during this holy time of year. ”

There are more Stations apps available for Iphone. istations, Via Crucis

I am slightly skeptical about endorsing the Confession app which according to the BBC was approved by the Catholic Church. Decide for yourself.

Lastly, if you are giving something us this Lent then there is an App for the IPhone called DAYS WITHOUT. For £1.49 it will help you keep track of simple goals you are trying to accomplish to kick those bad habits.

Introit ‘Esto Mihi’

A beautiful recording complete with sing-along notation from the Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, Le Barroux
 This Sunday, the 6th Sunday in Ordinary (Hebdomada Sexta)  the Introit is Esto Mihi, from Psalm 30. This is the Introit for Quinquagesima which in the Old rite is next Sunday. It is written in Mode VI, the pious mode (think of the Requiem Aeternam Introit.)
Be unto me a protecting God and a house of refuge, to save me; for you are my support and my refuge. and for the sake of your name you will lead me and nourish me. V. In you O Lord, do I trust; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.  
Dom Gueranger on this week’s introit:-

The Introit is the prayer of mankind, blind and wretched as the poor man of Jericho; it asks for pity from its Redeemer, and beseeches him to guide and feed it.

Stan Metheny has kindly sent me his notes on this Introit written for his schola based in St.Louis:

This Introit antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Esto mihi in Deum protectorem, in locum refugii, ut salvum me facias

  2. quoniam firmamentum meum, et refugium meum es tu

  3. et proper nomen tuum dux mihi eris et enutries me

The melody here, in the soothing Mode 6, radiates a calm confidence in God’s protection and sustenance, reinforced by interim cadences with a repeating pitch over protectorem, (salvum me) facias, and enutrias. The first phrase begins with a minor third, then sinks to do and then rises a fourth. Then the melody begins to move above the dominant over protectorem and descends again over locum refrigerii. In the second phrase the situation is reversed. The first half with its recitative on the dominant is firm and definite; the descent occurs only in the second half. Like the first and second, the third phrase also has an ascending fourth, followed by a bistropha. Here, after an apparent calm on sol, the melody rises to a bright do. Also, please note that there is no break between mihi and in Deum, so join in just after the intonation without any hesitation.

The little conjunction et, so loved by our Holy Father, appears often in this text, adding emphasis to the various titles and attributes of God here. Psalm 30, from which this text is drawn, was the prayer of David—a type of Christ—in his time of greatest need. And when Jesus was hanging on the cross, He prayed a verse of this psalm aloud, ‘Into Your hands I commend My spirit,’ which has been echoed by martyrs through the ages, and is still our nightly prayer at Compline.

You might enjoy hearing this Introit sung by the nuns of Le Barroux: http://www.gloria.tv/?media=248465.